MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Only a few days before kickoff of the BCS Championship, the NFL is the furthest thing from Brian Kelly's mind.
As a slew of NFL coaches were fired following the conclusion of the regular season a week ago, Kelly's name was thrown out as one that would interest some teams -- including the Bears -- if he were keen on jumping to the next level. When asked on Saturday, Kelly didn't offer any hints about overtures from the NFL, adding that every inquiry is directed through his agent.
"It's flattering if there is interest, which I don't know that there is," Kelly said. "But again, that is such a secondary topic for me right now, it's all about this game."
If Kelly is thinking about bolting, he certainly didn't intimate it on Saturday -- and it would come as a surprise even when one gets beyond the usual coachspeak of a press conference. As a successful college coach who, by some observer's accounts, has the intangibles necessary to coach in the NFL, the rumors will be there, even if there's nothing backing them at this moment.
"When I took the job at Notre Dame, I think I said it was a dream job," Kelly explained. "But I never went around day to day anything about being the Notre Dame head coach, because the job that I had in hand was what I was thinking about. And I think that's the same thing with the NFL.
"I think from my perspective I've got the best job in the country, NFL, college, high school, whatever. I just look at the place that I'm at and thankful for the opportunity that I have."
Kelly striving for Alabama's success
Nick Saban doesn't like the throw the D-word around, but a third title in four years would firmly slap a dynasty label on the Tide. Just as Kelly said earlier in the year he hoped to establish the kind of dominance at home Bob Stoops has at Oklahoma, he's hoping to see the kind of year-to-year prosperity established by Saban at Alabama.
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"We're talking about historic success," Kelly said. "We're not talking about somebody that wasn't ranked last year -- Notre Dame -- or at the start of the year. Your program is defined in consistency, and Alabama is that model. I concede to that. It's where we want to be."
Notre Dame hasn't won back-to-back titles since the 1940s under Frank Leahy, while Ara Parseghian's two championships were seven years apart. No team has won back-to-back titles since Nebraska in the mid-1990s (although USC supporters would contest that).
It's not easy to do, but Saban's on the cusp of doing it -- and Notre Dame, obviously, wants to get to the point where it's feasible for them as well.
"We want to be back here next year," Kelly said. "I think there's been some commentators that have talked about, is Notre Dame for real? Well, for me we're for real because we're here. We won all of our games; that's clear. Where is Notre Dame going to be as it relates to the consistency thing? And that's why I'm the head coach and that's why I want to be the head coach, because I want to show we can do this consistently."
Coming out of the woodwork
The holidays were an interesting time for Notre Dame players, who returned to their friends and families only a few weeks away from playing for a National Championship. Offensive lineman Chris Watt, who grew up in a family that supported the University of Illinois, said the whole experience has "been kind of surreal" while center Braxston Cave said he's heard from distant, distant relatives trying to snatch up tickets for the game.
Notre Dame players get six tickets for the game, and Manti Te'o's using all of them for his family, although with five siblings and two parents, someone might've had to stay home.
"I think every individual who plays in this game is contacted from family members that they haven't met yet," Te'o said.
Cave, in his fifth year at Notre Dame, won't have any friends coming down to South Florida for the game, though. Recognizing his envious position, the center grinned: "All my friends have jobs now. They couldn't take time off."